The Whiteout Years – Part Two

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Here it is; the second and final installment of my short story, ‘The Whiteout Years’. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it. That was a joy – or perhaps that is not the most appropriate word. Considering…

To read Part One, click here. There is an option to read the whole story here,  The Whiteout Years.

Finally, a huge thanks and hugs to you all for reading and for the many warm and positive comments. I’m truly touched by your words and they have given me such a lift. I feel it’s through the comments that a real sense of each other develops and relationships are built; that is the heartfelt core of blogging.

The Whiteout Years – Part Two

Along the road-side Carl spotted the triangle warning sign for elks. For the first time that day he smiled. The signs were far and few between, not through lack of trying. The local highway agency put them out, however they were soon quickly stolen by souvenir hunting tourists and taken home as a memento of their holiday in Sweden. The resilience of the authorities was staggering – hundreds of signs stolen, hundreds more put out. 

Out of the blackness Carl spotted the sign for the village. Two kilometres. His fifth year here and the road felt as familiar as the one he drove every day to work. How could that be? How could he feel so at home in a place he’d visited so infrequently?

He started to in shock, eyes blinded by a kaleidoscopic sheet of colour. Blinking, he saw more rainfalls of brilliant reds, whites, purples high in the sky. Another rocket swerved to the right, evaporating high up in the dark. Firework upon firework followed. Carl was late, the plane had been delayed and it must already be midnight. The start of a new year. As he drew closer to the village Carl saw that it had excelled itself. Now he could hear the distant thunder of the rockets, the odd whoops of delight from the crowd.  

Three years since his last moments with Karin. Three years since days, weeks, months, years ceased to matter. Her parent’s had survived their loss; he never knew how. At their insistence Carl came every year to visit them. Whilst he held himself responsible for  the accident, they had taken it upon themselves to save him. A lost cause, he told them repeatedly. He’d tried to escape their care and concern – to no avail. So, here he was again. Late.

Suddenly a wall of brown appeared in his lights. Large eyes gleamed in the headlights and instinctively Carl slammed on the breaks. The car spun to the side and with a smash it stopped; then suddenly it lifted and twisted up into the air before  landing on its roof with a cushioned thud. Outside Carl heard the sound of an injured animal, the pained barking of an elk.  As the car spun slowly, Carl saw the huge animal steady itself, before sheepishly trekking into the trees.  

He heard her breaths next to him, the harsh rasping and puffs of warm air upon his cheek. Tiny wisps of vapour floated in front of his face, warmth meeting cold. Carl started to shake, then thought of Karin and reached out to her, to protect her. The seat was empty. It was all wrong. Where was she? Wasn’t she driving? Why was he in the driver’s seat? She must have escaped? Gone to get help? He heard her voice in the distance, “Keep safe! Live.” 

“Karin!” Carl shouted her name until his voice was hoarse, quaking with the cold. His hand, blue and black, fought to release the seat-belt buckle. Karin, he had to find her. 

She was driving, laughing, singing away as they took an unknown short cut to her parents. He should have said no. He should have told her to slow down. Be sensible. No, he had told her, she’d shouted back. “Sensible is not living, this is!” and with that she’d turned the wheel first one way and then the other, skidding round and round.  He’d been furious, his temper frayed with fear. Seeing this, Karin had thrown herself around his neck, nestled her face into his neck, kissing him, comforting, all the time muttering, “Sorry, sorry.” After a while the car chilled and conscious of the time and the fireworks display, they set off. “Please, Carl, sensible is okay but remember to live, to live wildly, madly. Promise me.”

“Wildly, madly,” the words echoed in his mind, around him. “Please live…” the silent voice begged of him, 

“Live!” Karin’s voice again. Twisting stiffly in his seat, Carl searched for her. She’d been driving, more carefully after their stop, but he suddenly noticed her seatbelt. She’d forgotten to fasten it again. He told he to stop and do it up. She refused, saying they were soon there. He insisted. She started teasing him, “Calm Carl,” when suddenly he reached over in a huff for the belt. There was no warning, no skid, no shout. Nothing. Just a sharp descent down into the ditch, the car clumsily crashing, round and round down the steep slope. They would have been ok, the police said later. They would have been ok, if it wasn’t for the birch tree. Karin’s side of the car hit it full on, the door crushed on to her side. Unconscious for hours, Carl woke in the hospital with Karin’s father by his side, tears streaming down his face as he held Carl’s questioning look.

“Live wildly…” Karin’s voice again, demanding to be heard and freezing Carl started to, only to find himself dangling upside down in his seat, his head searing with pain, so cold time slowed. With her warm hand on his black fingers, they began to glow red as blood pumped painfully into them. With her guiding force Carl reached for his seatbelt until a sharp click released the buckle and with difficulty he clambered onto the road. 

Ahead lights sparkled from the windows of the houses in the village, colourful tree lights, window lights, candles. The last firework crackled in a cacophony light. “Karin!” Carl spun round, stumbling with dizziness. No one. Nothing. Yet, still something. 

The lights ahead beckoned, the lights of warmth and life and for the first time in three years Carl could see them, feel them. The mantle of oblivion had been lifted and yes, he would listen to her, to live wildly, madly. With tears stinging, freezing into tiny droplets on his cheek Carl staggered off towards the village.

The End

© Annika Perry 2015

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37 thoughts on “The Whiteout Years – Part Two

  1. Carol A. Hand says:

    You are such a gifted storyteller, Annika. Your images brought me into the winter journey through the mesmerizing snowstorm and drew me into the gradually unfolding source of profound and sacred loss and healing. This is a deeply touching, eloquently-told, love story. One of the best I have ever read. I do hope it was awarded the recognition it deserves.

    • Annika Perry says:

      Carol, a heartfelt thank you for your wonderful comment. Your words touch me deeply and come at just the perfect time as I am going through a period of self-doubt about my writing. Reading this has given me such a boost, a beautiful literary comment touching on the core of the story – thank you. This is all the recognition I need!

    • Annika Perry says:

      Janice, thank you for reading and I’m glad you enjoyed the story. I so wanted it to touch people on various levels. Thank you for your comment and lovely to have you as a follower and great to be following you.

  2. Carol Balawyder says:

    Annika, your story really touched me. You write so beautifully and hauntingly. There were a few editing errors I picked up in the first part but they didn’t take away from the soul of your story.

  3. Sherri says:

    Oh Annika, I am so glad I have finally had a chance to read your delightfully moving and excellent written story. You had me hooked from the very beginning, I can see Carl & Karin, the woods, the fireworks, feel the cold and the warmth breath and the wildness of the swing of emotion. No wonder it was short listed. A winner next time, for sure! Big hugs xxx

    • Annika Perry says:

      Sherri, your words have me in tears of joy and mean so much to me. I am so glad you got carried away by the story, very much Carl and Karin’s story. You have given me a real boost and I might well try and enter this again. It’s been lovely to showcase it here on my blog.

      • Sherri says:

        Oh I’m so glad Annika, and I really do mean ever word. In fact, I am still thinking of Carl and Karin, such was the power of their/your story for me…and the way it was so beautifully written. You have great writing talent, and I definitely think you should enter it again. I entered a short memoir piece last year to FISH Publishing which was long listed in April much to my amazement. I’m also thinking about resubmitting it again this month (different judge). We inspire each other!

        • Annika Perry says:

          Oh no, Sherri, you’ll have me gushing all again. Words can’t say thank you enough for your warm words.❤️ They help so much. Well done on being long listed for the Fish Memoir prize – that’s brilliant. Good idea about resubmitting it. Are there any other places you could submit it to as well? I know Myslexia last year ran a Memoir prize but I don’t know how long it had to be. Do you read Myslexia? Very inspirational, great short stories, poems etc and constructive advice for women writers. It’s my treat, published quarterly, so I read it in little bursts to make sure it lasts. You definitely inspire me, thank you so much and I’m happy if I can give you a lift in your writing too. 😀

          • Sherri says:

            Thank you so much Annika, I was amazed when I saw my name on the long list, it was such a wonderful validation. Now I hope to improve on that, but when I start to overthink my writing, I lose the original feel and then I freeze, wanting to start over. Hopefully I’ll have it where I want it by the end of the month 😮 I need to treat myself and subscribe to Myslexia, thank you for reminding me. I do look at their website, I think I saw the memoir competition, but I knew I wouldn’t be ready in time. It’s wonderful that we can inspire and encourage one another, I am so grateful 🙂 ❤

  4. maryannniemczura says:

    Thank you for sharing this wonderful story with us. You deserved the prize you won for it. I laughed at clothes strewn across the floor and how he could then determine her mood. Some days when I was still working, I would have several choices of clothes and accessories piled up until I finally decided on what to wear that day. We have the expression in the US to have a “bad hair” day when, no matter what you do, it is simply not right. I would term the day when I couldn’t seem to find the right combination of clothes as the “bad clothes day.” You are such a gifted writer. Any time a story or book draws me in and I am living those moments, I know it is a keeper and one I cannot put down until it is finished. Now I am thirsty for more. These images will remain with me for some time to come. Keep writing more!

    • Annika Perry says:

      Wow!! Mary Ann, big hugs to you for your warm and considered comment. ❤️I return to your words again and again, ‘a keeper’, ‘thirsty for more’ and effectively unputdownable. I always thought those were words for other writers. A big heartfelt thank you! 😄 With praise like this how could I not keep on writing!!

    • Annika Perry says:

      Thank you so much Johanna. Your kind words have me smiling! 😀 I think it is so important to use all the senses in writing to engage a reader, otherwise it can become rather one dimensional I feel. It has been a joy sharing this story and thank you for reading – I know it can be difficult to read such long stories on a computer screen.

    • Annika Perry says:

      Thank you so much, Heena for you positive warm comment – it means a lot to me! I was slightly nervous about sharing this as it’s one especially close to me, but everyone has been terrific and all the comments so heartfelt.

      • Heena Rathore P. says:

        You’re always welcome dear! Your story is really heartfelt and beautiful, that’s why everyone absolutely adores it 🙂
        And I understand, even I had a few reservations about sharing my work publically but with time it all subsided. So I’m sure that after this positive and lovely experience, it’ll be quite easier for you the next time 😀

    • Annika Perry says:

      Jacqui, he’s as lonely and isolated as the landscape, but hopefully that is all about to change. No doubt like so many you have seen others suffer such grief and seen its destructive power. One single moment can begin the change to live again.

  5. Peter R says:

    Tingles up and down my spine; and the cold, the cold. So beautifully written. Out of tragedy, calm and peace. “Go live!”. Magic.

  6. JC says:

    What a beautiful ending, Annika. I loved the scenery and the snow that you made come alive. I also love the fact that that it was her parents he was going to see as though they’ve adopted each other out of their grief. I am more than happy that the Elk was able to walk away… maybe he learned a lesson.
    But the ending is wonderful. Carl now knows that even in her death, Karin is always with him. And as Thomas Jefferson said, ‘life is for the living’ and Carl knows this now, for he’s been given a second chance at living to the fullest.

    • Annika Perry says:

      Wow! What can I say, JC?! A very humble and huge thank you for your kind, warm and considered reply. I’m so happy you ‘get’ this story and it got to you so deeply. It’s one that is close to my heart. I’d never heard the Jefferson saying but oh, how true. Every moment is precious and to be lived to the full. 😀

    • Annika Perry says:

      So glad you enjoyed it Jill. I must admit whilst writing it, I began to shiver with cold and when I’d finished I was surprised to look out of the window and see Spring flowers and not snow!

  7. Mirja says:

    First Annika, I just am so drawn to that stunning photo. Felt like getting the skis on and just go.
    In day light.
    Your story has me so drawn in that the heart beats faster.
    How skilfully you intermingle the two accidents; the first one such a tragic loss to Carl and the parents. I also love the ending where Carl finds peace finally – through Karin’s voice guiding him on to “Live”. Beautiful!

    • Annika Perry says:

      Mirja, I love stories that become intertwined within each other, crossing time paths or even worlds. They send shivers of delight down my spine and I’m so happy you liked this aspect of the story. Oh, for snow like that on the photo! Then a day long of cross-country skiing – bliss!

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